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Could cholesterol lowering drugs help treat prostate cancer?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Statins tied to lower risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

Research suggests men who have had surgery for prostate cancer might find benefit from taking cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. Statins that are known for reducing inflammation are linked to lower chance that prostate cancer will return according to findings from a retrospective analysis led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

How statins might stop prostate cancer return

Stephen J. Freedland, M.D., associate professor of urology and pathology at Duke and a urologist at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center said in a press release: “It is possible that statins could inhibit cancer growth through several mechanisms, either directly by inhibiting certain metabolic pathways, or indirectly by lowering cholesterol.”

The study authors found taking stains after being diagnosed with prostate cancer could benefit non-black men, though the reasons are unclear.

Lab studies performed on tissue samples have shown cholesterol that is inflammatory promotes prostate cancer. Lowering cholesterol slows growth of the disease.

Finding out how statins that are widely prescribed slow prostate cancer growth is important Freedland adds, especially given widespread use of the drugs.

Prostate cancer returns within ten years in approximately 30 percent of men who have had prostatectomy.

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The study

The researchers looked at medical records of men who had radical prostatectomy and had never taken statins.

The intent was to find out whether taking cholesterol lowering drugs after treatment had an effect on prostate cancer progression.

After an average follow up of six years, the researchers found statins were associated with a 36 percent lower chance of prostate cancer recurrence after taking into account tumor characteristics, demographics and how long the men had used statins.

A secondary analysis showed the benefit was evidence only among non-black men.

The next step would be to test the benefits of statins for improving prostate cancer outcomes in clinical trials. The study appears in the online publication. BJU International (formerly the British Journal of Urology).

"These future studies will help to determine whether statins – which are cost-effective and generally well-tolerated – may play a beneficial role in prostate cancer treatment, in addition to their proven role in preventing cardiovascular mortality,” says lead author Emma H. Allott, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in the Division of Urology at Duke and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Prostate cancer claimed 29,720 lives in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.Finding ways to stop the disease from returning with an inexpensive drug could mean better outcomes for men diagnosed with the disease. Statins could have a future role in prostate cancer treatment, but more studies are needed to understand how the drugs work to lower the risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

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